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Snowflake Bentley

by Mary Azarian

School Library Journal K-Gr 3-This picture-book biography beautifully captures the essence of the life and passion of Wilson A. Bentley (1865-1931), known to many as "The Snowflake Man." A plaque in his hometown honors the work of this simple farmer who labored for 50 years to develop a technique of microphotography in an attempt to capture "...the grandeur and mystery of the snowflake." The story of this self-taught scientist begins with his early interest in the beauty of snow and his determination to find a way of sharing that beauty with others. At 16, his parents spent their life's savings on a special camera with its own microscope so he could make a permanent record of individual snowflakes. After two years of work, he perfected a technique for making acceptable pictures. He spent the rest of his life photographing ice crystals and sharing them with neighbors and interested scientists and artists around the world. Azarian's woodblock illustrations, hand tinted with watercolors, blend perfectly with the text and recall the rural Vermont of Bentley's time. The inclusion of a photograph of the scientist at work and three of his remarkable photographs adds authenticity. Two articles about his work, one written by Bentley himself, are listed on the CIP page. The story of this man's life is written with graceful simplicity. Sidebars decorated with snowflakes on every page add facts for those who want more details. An inspiring selection.-Virginia Golodetz, Children's Literature New England, Burlington, VT

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Azarian's (A Farmer's Alphabet) handsome woodcuts provide a homespun backdrop to Martin's (Grandmother Bryant's Pocket) brief biography of a farmboy born in 1865 on the Vermont snowbelt who never lost his fascination with snowflakes. Wilson A. Bentley spent 50 years pioneering the scientific study of ice crystals, and developed a technique of microphotography that allowed him to capture the hexagonal shapes and prove that no two snowflakes are alike. Martin conveys Bentley's passion in lyrical language ("snow was as beautiful as butterflies, or apple blossoms"), and punctuates her text with frequent sidebars packed with intriguing tidbits of information (though readers may be confused by the two that explain Bentley's solution of how to photograph the snowflakes). Hand-tinted with watercolors and firmly anchored in the rural 19th century, Azarian's woodcuts evoke an era of sleighs and woodstoves, front porches and barn doors, and their bold black lines provide visual contrast to the delicate snowflakes that float airily in the sidebars. A trio of Bentley's ground-breaking black-and-white photographs of snowflakes, along with a picture and quote from him about his love for his work, is the icing that tops off this attractive volume. Ages 4-8. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.